With Albert Hammond Jr supporting Coldplay on the current European leg of the Viva La Vida tour, we gave The Strokes’ guitarist a shout before the Strasbourg show to find out more about his solo project.
Albert, second left, and his band
Hi Albert. So, it’s the first gig of the European tour today.
Yes it is. I’m about to do soundcheck.
Are you excited?
Are you kidding? Yeah, I’m very excited.
It must be quite strange to be supporting when you’re used to being in a big headlining band yourself?
No, it’s not strange. I feel really lucky, happy and excited. You have all the excitement of the venue and being a part of something that’s so big, but without the pressure. It’s not your show, so even if you fuck up terribly people will just be like, "Oh well, the support band wasn’t so good". But when it’s your show – people have come to see you so you feel that pressure to really deliver for your fans.
Do you approach a support gig differently to a headline one?
I guess my goals are always big. I try and make an impact on people, to leave the crowd feeling excited for what’s coming next. I’ll just be pushing and trying to do my best.
When you’re with The Strokes, do you guys pick your support bands?
Yeah, we do similar things to Coldplay. We do shows that we can sell-out alone, so then we can bring in whoever we want. We’d much rather do it that way.
Presumably you’ll hope to win over some new fans on this tour?
Yeah, that’s the great thing about opening – you can reach people that might not have heard you. You’re playing to a different crowd every night and to an awful lot of people. If I saw an opening band and I liked it I would assume that the headlining band like them too. I never see an opening band and think, "They must hate them!" Ha ha!
But you do hear about tours where support bands get bought on by their labels.
For sure, but you can always feel that vibe. The whole fun thing that made me so excited about doing this tour is that I know some of the guys from Coldplay. They’re a good bunch of guys and I’m looking forward to hanging out, playing music and having fun.
It’s quite a long tour across a lot of countries.
Yes, 22 shows in like 30 days.
Are these countries you’ve been to with The Strokes?
I think I’ve been to most of them with The Strokes and last year with my solo stuff, but a lot of the smaller cities in these countries I’ve never been to. So it’ll be interesting to see what they’re like.
Do you get time to sight-see when you’re on a tour like this?
I imagine we will have a chance to walk around and see some things. I hope so.
For those who don’t know your solo music, can you give us a rough idea of what it sounds like?
It’s melodic music – I like melody and I like rhythms. I think it’ll be a fun half a hour before you see Coldplay – I think it’s a really good match. That’s what I remember telling them when I was saying that I wanted to open for them. I thought we’d make a really good match musically. I felt it would feel like a great show.
So did you ask if you could support them?
Yeah, we were actually making our records at the same time and we were going to be putting them out at the same time, so I was saying "Let me come out on the road". But I was actually surprised that I got the gig. Every band would want to come and do this tour. It’s an amazing experience. Even though I know them, I still feel very lucky that I got it.
When did you meet them?
I think the first time was backstage at an Oasis show in New York, when I met Chris and Guy. And then I met Jonny and became really good friends with him. Every time he comes to New York and every time I go to London we always go for dinner. He’s great. We just really click as friends.
Some people would imagine that someone like you who’s in a massive band might be too proud to support a band like Coldplay.
I don’t really like that mentality. I don’t understand it. We’re all doing the same thing, just trying to get by playing music. I’m excited for them that they’ve reached the level they have. And it’s fun to be apart of it.
Presumably you’ve been to see Coldplay live before?
Yes, many times. A few years ago I almost actually came along for a week of shows with them. I had my bag packed and everything, then I had to goon tour. But the last time I saw them was in New York earlier this year when they did the free show at Madison Square Garden.
What did you think of the New York show?
It was great. I love how they go on a little stage and then go to the back of the crowd. You can see it’s really fun for the fans. It’s really cool to still try to find a way to make something feel intimate, especially at the back where the people usually never see the band. And then, of course, all the lights and stuff are something you have to do on these big shows, but they do a great job of it. It’s very beautiful.
Do you think you’ll be playing music with them on this tour? Either backstage or onstage?
I have no idea. But I hope to hang out, yeah.
And finally, what’s your favourite Coldplay song?
Probably Fix You. I remember I was on tour and I hadn’t heard the song and I saw the video. It really got me. The video really works with the song. I was just like, "Wow! This is amazing!".
Well you’ll get to hear it 22 times in the next 30 days.
Yeah! I’ll have it memorised. I’ll be able to do the lights.
To find out more about Albert Hammond Jr, click here to check out his MySpace.